AWWA, Water Research Foundation Publish Cyanotoxins Guidance

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Water Research Foundation (WRF) have released a guide and additional resources to help water professionals detect and control cyanotoxins, the algae-related contaminants that can negatively impact drinking water quality.

“Managing Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water: A Technical Guidance Manual for Drinking Water Professionals” provides information to utility professionals on the preparation, treatment, and response to cyanotoxins concerns. An accompanying manual, “A Water Utility Manager’s Guide to Cyanotoxins” was released in April 2015. Both documents are available for free download from both the AWWA and WRF websites.

Additionally, AWWA and WRF have recently released additional resources designed to assist the utility community with understanding, planning for, and responding to cyanotoxins events. The recently launched WRF video, Understanding Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins, provides a utility perspective on the latest in source water protection, monitoring, detection, and treatment of cyanotoxins. Additional WRF resources can be found in the Cyanotoxins Knowledge Portal.

The AWWA report, “Cyanotoxins in US Drinking Water: Occurrence, Case Studies and State Approaches to Regulation,” summarizes available state data on occurrence and the strategies employed by the states to respond to cyanotoxins incidents. A suite of additional tools and reports on cyanotoxins are available on the AWWA Cyanotoxins Resource Page.

Cyanotoxins typically arise from cyanobacteria — often referred to as blue-green algae in lakes and reservoirs and can impact drinking water quality, particularly taste and odor. While health effects from drinking water contaminated by cyanotoxins are not well understood, potential negative health impacts of prolonged or very high exposures include liver, nervous system, and gastrointestinal problems.

These cyanotoxin resources come as the federal government considers how to address cyanotoxins from both regulatory and legislative perspectives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued drinking water health advisories in 2015 for water utilities and states to use as they take steps to protect communities from algal toxins. The EPA has developed an Algal Toxin Strategic Plan that outlines approaches and projects that will control and manage algal toxins in source water and treat algal toxins in drinking water. Additionally, the EPA has released a pre-publication copy of its proposed Fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, which includes 10 cyanotoxins/groups.

“As this challenging issue becomes more widespread, utility leaders are increasingly looking for reasonable solutions,” said AWWA CEO David LaFrance. “These materials take the lessons that we have already learned and make them accessible to the entire sector.”

“Cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins need to be managed from the source water to the treatment process,” said Robert Renner, CEO of the Water Research Foundation. “These resources will help water utility managers and staff apply best practices to tackle this growing problem.”

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